Nostalgia: Powerful Fuel for Good Content

By Molly McInerney

Remember that time you and your friends plunged into the brisk waters of Lake Michigan on a late, summer night in August? Or when you scored free tickets to Lollapalooza and listened to the pure magic of Paul McCartney front row while billions around you danced and sang to the legendary musician’s famous tunes?

Nostalgia is overpowering and can wistfully bring us to a happy place. Whether it is an old song or a certain scent, we turn on an emotional dime when our memories are triggered by something sentimental, leaving us with feelings of hope, confidence and pleasure. 

Increasingly, brands are emerging to simplify a glimpse of the past giving people the opportunity to surge back, even for a split second, to feeling the joy of their first concert and all of its splendor. 

As social media marketing experts,  hashtags like #ThrowbackThursday, #FlashbackFriday and apps like Timehop can take us on a walk down memory lane as friends and family post old photos, videos or moments of significant occasions in their lives. Even LinkedIn uses nostalgia as a strategy by documenting our entire professional timeline, allowing us and others to see where we started as young professionals. The past shapes the present, and with social media and proprietary platforms catching on to our feelings of sentimentality, it looks like reflecting on the past is becoming easier than ever.

Life is fast and short; we barely take time to stop and think about the little, blissful moments that make us happy. Although nostalgia can bring back an intense feeling of bittersweet wistfulness, it’s important to remember these times because they shape and define the rest of our lives. Giving consumers the technology to curate their memories and post them via digital media can allow people to celebrate the past while indirectly conveying the essence of a brand.  As influencer marketing experts, we have had great success  aligning campaigns with real milestones in life, where brands can speak to their audience on a more personal level.

Every Father’s Day, for example, my Instagram feed is full of Dad posts and sincere shout outs. It makes me feel wholehearted and grateful when I scroll through these photos, and inherently causes me to post my own throwback: A picture of my dad putting on dangly, pink earrings while playing the game “Pretty, Pretty Princess” with me when I was five. It is times like these that brands should aim to capture.

So, how can your brand capture these moments and use nostalgia to connect with consumers?

Your goal is to create an emotional connection in a natural, authentic way. Again, think milestones: Christmas, Thanksgiving, Graduation Day. As your brand develops a content strategy, consider implementing nostalgia as a means to relate to your consumers. The more applicable and true your content is the more trust your consumer will feel towards your product, brand, or campaign.

When creating content, it is especially effective to use nostalgia in an organic manner as it naturally lures the consumer in because of the genuineness of the post. You’re not [directly] trying to sell the target audience anything, more so initiating a real conversation with them about the old times. This is more genuine and what consumers want and expect.

According to the Journal of Consumer Research, consumers are more likely to spend money when they’re feeling nostalgic. Trying to sell a new product, let’s say…a new athletic shoe? Relate the shoe back to one’s past, like a first basketball game or a first soccer goal. Trying to sell an idea? Remind your audience of something in their past to motivate them to participate. In some instances, consumers will purchase a product or idea because it simply reminds them of a specific memory and they feel some type of connection to it. For instance, does the smell of your favorite sun tan lotion remind you of the lazy hazy days of summer and make you feel happy? These kinds of nostalgic scents and senses pack a mean emotional punch. Look to these connections to fuel meaningful content surrounding to build on a relationship your brand may already have with a customer and make it long lasting.  

Nostalgia can help brands build better stories. Your content development goal is to engage your customers on a higher level. Research shows that customers feel positive about a company that produces content. And, Millennials have come to expect brands to produce content. The technology to bring efficiencies to the content development and management process is accessible to anyone willing to invest in it. The art of storytelling is where the magic comes in and nostalgic milestones can help content development teams fuel the fire.